Friday, April 30, 2010

Non-Violent Resistance to the Wall - some interesting partners?

An interesting development in the struggle to stop the building of the Israeli separation wall.....

Residents of Al Walaja, a Palestinian village of about 2000, just northwest of Bethlehem, are using nonviolent protest in an attempt to stop the building of the wall. Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, who lives, organizes and writes in the town of Beit Sahour in the Bethlehem district, writes of many successful non-violent protests against the wall this past week.

Ever wonder what they mean by “non-violent” resistance? Take 8 minutes to watch a video he forwarded:

The Jerusalem Post reports that settlers in the nearby Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Giol (built on Palestinian land between Bethlehem and Jerusalem) are trying to organize joint protests against the wall. Understandably, Palestinians are skeptical of the settlers’ motivations:

Read some history of the struggles of the villagers of Al Walaja:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem Receives USAID Grant for Linear Accelerator

Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem serves Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. It is the only hospital providing pediatric kidney dialysis and some types of cancer treatment. As Dr. Tawfig Nasser explains below, the linear accelerator provided by the USAID will greatly improve treatment options for Palestinian cancer patients. Augusta Victoria Hospital is supported by the international Lutheran community through the Lutheran World Federation. Locally, members of Sabeel-Colorado lobbied our senators (Michael Bennett and Mark Udall) and representative (Diana DeGette) for this grant, and their staffs offered to support the grant.

Read more about the work of Augusta Victoria Hospital the work of the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives Housing Project being built on their land in overcrowded East Jerusalem, where Palestinians are not allowed to build (even adding on to their homes).

[In the picture, left to right: Mark Brown, LWF representative in Jerusalem; Dr. Jill Biden; Dr. Tawfig Nasser]

"Success is a powerful way to overcome human oppression, even under economic, political and societal failure."

USAID to Purchase Cancer Equipment for Jerusalem Lutheran Hospital

WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced this month it will purchase a second linear accelerator for Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), a project of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in East Jerusalem. The equipment, valued at about $5.5 million, will be used to treat cancer patients.

In an interview with the News Service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) while visiting here, Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, AVH chief executive officer, said the U.S. government's support is "diplomacy language that speaks to people right away. The American people are donating such high-tech equipment to care" for patients at the hospital.

Nasser said Lutheran bishops and others from the ELCA expressed support to members of Congress for the work of Augusta Victoria Hospital, including its cancer program.
The linear accelerator is an instrument that emits very high energy radiation to treat cancer patients, particularly those with breast cancer. One machine can treat tens of thousands of patients, said Nasser.

"Since we are the only cancer center, it is very important for us that we don't stop. We can help more people and provide more services for people in Gaza and the West Bank (with a second linear accelerator)," he said.

"When the machine breaks down or needs preventive maintenance, we have no way to continue treatment. We really have the only machine for the whole Palestinian nation, which is operated at the LWF AVH program in Jerusalem," said Nasser.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, visited Augusta Victoria Hospital at the time of the USAID funding announcement.

"It was a very good visit," said Nasser. "U.S. politics is very difficult when it comes to Israel and Palestine. The Bidens themselves are a bit more engaged historically with the Israeli narrative, and she got to hear the Palestinian narrative through this health story."
Nasser said the current U.S. administration is being "heavily challenged, and it is important that we continue to keep the White House engaged in the Middle East and secure fair diplomacy."
Nasser said economic, political and social conditions in the Middle East are near complete failure.
"We are living in a hopeless situation," said Nasser, with no current peace process and the breakdown of political efforts. He said turmoil in the region hampers the hospital's ability to focus on providing the best medical care.

Movement and access into Jerusalem from the West Bank and Gaza is also a concern, said Nasser.

"This is paramount to us, because Palestinians cannot get to the hospital. We have to work on advocacy to secure the rights of patients and to secure that the environment is conducive to quality patient care," he said.
"People are invested in Augusta Victoria Hospital from all over the world," said Nasser. "Augusta Victoria Hospital is a beacon of hope," he said. It represents a much larger story than just being a place that delivers medical care. It represents a successful Christian presence in the Middle East, an institution that is experiencing success and growth there, and it is a place where interfaith dialogue occurs, he said.

"Success is a powerful way to overcome human oppression, even under economic, political and societal failure. We can still produce stories of human success, something every Lutheran should be proud of," said Nasser.

While in the United States, Nasser visited with USAID and members of Congress to express thanks for the purchase and to "convey the importance of development and diplomacy, and how it should speak to the people and not just the government."
- - -
Information about Augusta Victoria Hospital and the LWF Jerusalem program is at on the Web.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Remembering Gaza

No, I don’t mean the December, 2008 attack by Israeli bombers and ground troops. The exploding buildings, bombed-out homes, the dead and wounded piled in hospital corridors—those horrific scenes, thankfully, are history.

But Gazans are still suffering, and our tax dollars support the soldiers who stand at the checkpoints, deciding who and what can enter or leave Gaza.

I often hear people lament the lack of Palestinian leadership. They wonder why the Palestinians can’t create a healthier economy. The worst scenario is in Gaza, but the problems of Gaza are similar to the barriers to business development throughout the West Bank as well.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2007, following the election of a Hamas-majority government (in elections, by the way, cited this week by former President Jimmy Carter: “The three most perfect elections that we have monitored have been in Palestine.”). For three years the people of Gaza have endured a blockade of their port and all the entry points into Gaza—from Egypt and from Israel.

Last week, there was news of a lifting of the blockade, but the report of Paltrade, the Palestine Trade Center, published on April 12, shows that the news we heard was not the whole story…..

Israel granted entry for only two categories of products: clothes and shoes. The containers that arrived, however, having been held at Israeli ports for three years, were badly damaged, much of the clothing and shoes ruined. Losses were estimated at 30%. The stories of two Gazan businessmen illustrate what happened.

One merchant received delivery of one of ten containers the Israelis have been holding. Another received one of nine containers. In both cases the merchandise was badly damaged, the packages were ripped open, the goods dirty and not fit for sale. They estimate that, in addition to losing the goods for the past three years, 30% of the merchandise they have now finally received is a total loss. Pictures of the goods can be seen on the above web page.

No wonder the economy is so bad in Gaza. Even though Israeli troops have officially withdrawn from Gaza, troops at the checkpoints at the border continue to block, not only clothing, but food and school supplies, building materials and many other items. They, not the elected officials of the Palestinian Authority, have total control of what comes into or goes out of Gaza.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hope Rising from the Despair in East Jerusalem

Sheikh Jarrah is an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem where Israeli settlers are taking over land and houses whose residents are being removed by Israeli soldiers. Many Israelis are increasingly troubled by the way such actions are changing the values for which many Jews migrated to Israel, as Israeli author David Grossman's speech at a recent demonstration explains. The text of his speech follows the introductory paragraph below, with a link to a video of his speech (in Hebrew) at the bottom. Click on the title to read it where it originally appeared, the blog for

David Grossman's speech in Sheikh Jarrah

Before Friday's demo, a delegation of some 30 public figures and intellectuals visited Sheikh Jarrah. Among the participants were former Speaker of the Knesset Avrum Burg, author David Grossman, Prof. Ze'ev Sternhal, and former MK's Naomi Hazan and Zehava Galon. Following the visit with the families the delegation held a peaceful vigil next to the occupied houses. The police quickly ordered the vigil to disperse, and escorted the delegation out of the neighborhood. The police could not forbear from arresting four people - although they did not have the guts to arrest any of the dignitaries.

When the delegation joined the main demonstration up the street, the famous Israeli author David Grossman decided to address the crowd. Here is the full text of the speech:

"[...] what took place during the last few hours. We came early, a group of people, and visited one of the homes here in Sheikh Jarrah... at 1 P.M. The owner told us about the long history of abuse by the settlers, the police, and the army that has been going on for years, about how they are being effectively forced out, about how their lives are being made intolerable day and night, that they are being told how to live, harrassed incessantly, violently attacked. Then we went out, the same group, about 30 people, and stood quietly with signs protesting what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah, condemning the persistent, planned takeover of this place and other places by settlers, by right-wing elements. After all, what's happening here is only the tip of the iceberg. It's only one example of what has been happening in the Occupied Territories for more than 40 years. I think that we are all beginning to grasp - even those who maybe don't really want to - how 43 years ago, by turning a blind eye, by actively or passively cooperating, we actually cultivated a kind of carnivorous plant that is slowly devouring us, consuming every good part within us, making the country we live in a place that is not good to live in. Not good not only if you are an Arab citizen of Israel, and certainly not if you are a Palestinian resident of the Territories - but not good as well for every Jewish Israeli person who wants to live here, who cherishes some hope to be in a place where human beings are respected as humans beings, where your rights are treated as a given, where humanity, morality,and civil rights are not dirty words, not something from the bleeding-heart Left. No. These are the bread and water, the butter and milk of our lives, the stuff from which we will make our lives, and really make them lives worth living here.

We stood with the signs for two or three minutes and then the commander of the police announced aggresively - even violently, I would say - he said: 'You have two minutes to disperse.' I think that even before those two minutes were up, they began pushing us away from there, shoving, knocking people over with unreasonable force. The people here did not come to create a confrontation, they came to express solidarity, to make their cry heard. The police lost its head, behaved in a way that actually proves a lack of confidence, an inability to control itself and the situation. Four of our people were arrested, four people who didn't come here to get arrested, didn't make any provocation and certainly not one that justifies arrest. Of course, all of us here protest that.

I'll finish by saying that I wish that next week, there will be many many more people here. People who perhaps don't understand [stops because of applause] that because of lack of action, of indifference, and maybe out of fear and comfort, are allowing our future to be stolen away from us. They are stealing the country we want to live in, stealing every chance that we will ever have peace based on equality and mutual respect with our neighbours. Making any peace agreement almost impossible because of the places where the settlements are sneaking in, taking root, which really make any future agreement almost impossible, and certainly make the peace that will be attained much more fragile. We have something to fight for and something to struggle for. [People] have to understand this and come here, because this is the place, more than any other place today, to protest and confront the root of the occupation, where you can identify with the motives and with a just cause that can hardly be questioned. You have to be totally blind to not see what is happening here, and through that, perhaps, understand what is happening in all the areas of the occupation, and what is happening in all areas of our lives in Israel. Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom."

The video, in Hebrew, can be watched here: